I was pleased to hear that the Pope has formally said that gay people are okay. We are so okay that the Church accepts the fact that we can love each other just like heterosexual couples love each other. In fact, we are actually good for each other. The Pope wants Catholics to respect LGBT people. In fact, according to the Pope, gay people have a lot to offer. Now this is really a leap forward. I am glad the great things we have to offer society has been affirmed.
In March of 2014, the Dalai Lama joined the growing chorus of people who support gay marriage. The exiled Tibetan religious leader said during his last visit to the United States.
“If two people — a couple — really feel that way is more practical, more sort of satisfaction, both sides fully agree, then OK,” he said during an online interview with talk show host Larry King, though he added that each country had the right to choose for themselves whether to legalize gay unions. This seemed to be a change for the celibate Dalai Lama, who previously has made remarks more critical of homosexuality, including denouncing anal and oral sex.
With over 30 states now allowing same-sex marriage, it is easy to feel that the LGBT community has finally jumped the huge divide that has been the “Us/Them” elephant in the room for countless decades. It is a shift in religious thinking that one would think has solved that “discrimination stuff” that lesbians and gays feel. It just has not done much to make many of the current guilty and frightened feel secure about who they are.
My questions to all of these leaders is, “How do you lessen the fear of parental and world rejection of members of the LGBT community who are driven to either live a life of lies or commit suicide?” Yes, suicide. Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming approximately 30,000 lives each year. It is the leading cause of death among LGBT youth in America.
Gays and Lesbians are two to six times more likely to suicide than Heterosexuals.
Almost half of Gay and Lesbian teens state they have attempted suicide more than once.
It has been conservatively estimated the 1,500 Gay and Lesbian youth commit suicide every year.
I suppose you are wondering how I can tie this to films you should watch or create. Well, I can. In 2013 Andy Abrahams Wilson released his groundbreaking documentary “Alfredo’s Fire”. I was fortunate to be Senior Producer on this film. It is the true story of Alfredo Ormando, a gay writer from Sicily, who on January 13, 1998, shocked the world by lighting himself on fire in St. Peter’s Square, the only time such a protest had taken place on Vatican soil. Despite the attempt by some in the gay community to frame the event as the spark of the “Italian Stonewall,” Nearly two decades later, the Catholic Church may well have heard Alfredo’s wailing.
In 2006, Love and Suicide exemplified the torture of loving someone when the world tells you that you cannot. IMDB quotes, “When pretty but troubled Kaye moves to New Orleans from Atlanta with her mother and little brother, she forges a special friendship with Emily, a rebellious high school senior with troubles of her own. As Kaye and Emily grow closer, Kaye’s mother begins to suspect what she fears is the worse, that Emily’s sexual prowess has corrupted her daughter. Faced with the ridicule from their peers, and the pressures of their families and conservative religious beliefs, Kaye and Emily are forced to choose between true love and the promises they’ve made to each other, and fitting into a society that refuses to accept them. (Spoiler) One attempts suicide and one succeeds.
In June 2014 And The Unchained, a documentary from India, premiered in Guyana. The film chronicles the events surrounding the suicide of two young girls in Nandigram, one of the interior villages in West Bengal. As the story unfolds of their love affair, non-acceptance of the village community, as well as their families, became evident. To deal with such ‘abnormality’, one of the girls was married off in a hurry, which perhaps pushed them towards the end of the road – committing suicide. But their death did not end societal non-acceptance. Even after death their dead bodies lay unclaimed in the police morgue for days.
In a year of such strides towards equality and recognition for the LGBT community, it is also a time of continued struggles for those still hiding in closets and living in fear of rejection. Gay bashing hasn’t gone away. Bullying is going strong in schools and the workplace. Even one suicide is one too many. I challenge film makers to use the power of the big screen to not only applaud the positive LGBT strides of the 21st century, but to also use film to educate the public in light of the words of the Pope and the Dalai Lama. Thanks to religious leaders who think we are okay now. Now work hard to show gay and lesbian people that suicide is not the answer.
Jan Miller Corran, Ph.D., is CEO/President of More Than Friends Productions (MTF). Dr. Corran is a film producer with numerous films to her credit as Executive Producer, Associate Producer or consultant. For a list of her books and films, visit www.morethanfriendsproductions.com